The way children are consuming content is changing rapidly. Standard linear TV viewing is declining as an increasing number of children curate their own content, finding and selecting what they like and sharing it with their community. Public service media need to respond to their changing behaviour and reshape and reconfigure its content to make sure it reaches the generation of digital natives.
As Maurice Wheeler, from the Little Big Partnership, told our Children and Youth Experts Annual Meeting in Salford, UK, it's not just a question of putting existing content on new platforms. He said: “As they quickly discovered with their short-lived experiment, people did not go to McDonald’s for pizza. Similarly children do not go to Youtube for TV.”
Broadcasters need to create specific content for specific platforms. The challenge for broadcasters is whether to use existing platforms like Youtube and Snapchat or to create their own.
Using existing platforms has its advantages, said Wheeler:
However it is difficult to moderate with children potentially having access to inappropriate content. And children under the age 13 are not meant to be on most social channels.
For these reasons, EBU Members such as RTE have created their own platforms.
Multi-Media Editor for RTE Young People Aoife O’Reilly told the meeting that, despite the additional cost and admin involved, it had distinct advantages in terms of:
When broadcasters have multiple content platforms, they need to not only play to their individual strengths but also get them to work together. NRK’s SKAM, for example, commissions unique content for Instagram, Tumblr and Musical.ly rather than just adapting existing content.
O’Reilly said: “While TV shows give us the quality, the drama, the reach and the engagement, apps give us the interaction, the retention, the sense of ownership and the longevity of content.”
Specially-commissioned RTE series such as Spooky Stakeout are designed to work across platforms with children sent from the TV show to the app to decide what happens next.
While TV still provides broadcasters with the reach they need, it is important that they put sufficient resources into making their content work on other platforms and making it easily findable for children and young people.
Peter Robinson, Global Head of Research for Dubit, told the meeting that their research consistently showed that children are frustrated, with over half of all children struggling to find the content they wanted to watch.
TV ads are still the number one place that children hear about new content but Youtube is the second most popular and everywhere it is the number one place children go to find that content. While there are three or four brands that tend to dominate the children’s market, local brands are still incredibly important for young people. Public service broadcasters understand their markets and their needs.
Brands like NHK’s PythagoraSwitch have succeeded by knowing their audience and encouraging children’s thinking.
As CBeebies Alison Stewart, Chair of the EBU’s Children and Youth Expert Group, concluded: “It is really important for children to see shows and use content which is absolutely made for them...where they can see their own lives reflected in a way they recognise. It is vital for their development.
“I don’t think they can get that in a world of global broadcast. More than ever public service media has a role to play. And public service media organisations that can join together can be even stronger.”